New Zealand is one of the most popular countries for backpackers all over the world. If you are playing with the idea of doing backpacking yourself but you are not sure if New Zealand is the right choice, let me tell you what this country has to offer and what you can expect from New Zealand.
What can I expect of Backpacking New Zealand?
Many travel enthusiasts face their first and most important question before they even leave their home: Where should I go? It doesn’t really help that the world is stuffed with beautiful places. Especially for Europeans New Zealand became a favorite destiny. One of the reasons might be, that traveling and living on the other end of the world, and by that getting as far away from your responsibilities at home, is an intriguing prospect. But reducing the country of the Kiwis to this simple fact would be like saying “I like Pizza because it is the biggest opposite of Brussel sprouts I can imagine”. New Zealand has one of the most diverse landscapes on earth. Beautiful beaches with seal colonies and snowy mountains with breathtaking views are separated by a 3 hour drive only. If you are into hiking you probably are going to think of New Zealand as your personal Garden of Eden. If you like the idea of going on a hike, but not without the hot shower in the evening and a proper bed for the night, there are numerous of one day hikes with astonishing panorama. If you are seeking a more adventurous trip with all the features of being a part of Mother Nature, the smell of 5 days hiking and sleeping in a tent included, then the incredible great walks are right up your league. The sheer number of backpackers created a welcoming atmosphere among the locals and a hospitality sector that concentrates mainly on what backpackers need and like. A lot of backpackers ended up staying longer in one place than expected, simply because they found a comfortable place that is easy to call home.
When should I go to New Zealand?
There is definitely a main season for traveling in New Zealand, which is starting in October and lasts until March. The reason for that is simply because these are the warmest month. Many travelers use the opportunity to escape the winter on the northern hemisphere by simply jumping forward from northern autumn to southern spring. I can relate to that idea entirely for people that come to New Zealand for a couple of month only, because then you can enjoy the New Zealand summer with the beaches, hikes and attractions with the warm but moderate temperature of this country. The downside to that, you won’t be the only one here. In fact, a lot of places are booked out a couple of month ahead, the main sights are sometimes crowded and you will find it troubling to find a place where no other backpacker isn’t already waiting for you. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it clearly requires more planning and you sometimes will feel like a small part of a big group rather than being a single traveler exploring the world.
If you are going to stay in New Zealand for up to a year, I would advise to come here during winter season to avoid the big crowds. There are many landscapes which develop their unique atmosphere especially during winter and the ski resorts are the perfect spot for the fan of skiing and snowboarding. By the time the summer comes you will be way ahead of all the other arriving travelers while still having enough opportunities to get in touch with fellow travelers and locals alike.
What do I need to do before I come to New Zealand?
Well, this won’t be a list of all the stuff you could do, because I feel like many websites seem to think a backpacking trip is a pragmatic task. Don’t get me wrong, you have to do your homework, but it is not nearly as complex as it appears in some guides. So let’s have a look at the list:
- Get your visa: for that you simply need to apply for a visa online and follow the guide for applying for a visa. Just check out the official website.
- Meet the requirements of the visa: That simply means you need to have a valid passport and for certain visas some other requirements, e.g. for the working holiday visa you need the required saving on your bank account.
- I know it feels like there should be more to it, but there is actually nothing else you need
Obviously you have to think about more facts like “What should I bring with me?” or “Are there things I have to take care of back home before I leave my country for a long time?”. There are many guides for that and we might provide one for you as well, but please consider one thing: Your travel should be an individual and unique experience and preparing for it is actually when it starts. My anticipation before I started my first long term travel was an exciting time and I hate the idea of missing out on that by using agencies or just taking the same steps like a guide tells me to. So take the time to sit down and think about what YOU need to prepare and to what extend you would like to know how your trip is going to be like. Think about it like this: What adventure ever started with the sentences “Let me just make a quick pro and con list and look at that documentary on how it is done correctly.”?
How should I travel?
Backpacking New Zealand means carrying all your belongings with you, OK. But what is carrying the backpacker? There are many options, from a rental car to your own van to bus service and hitchhiking. First of all, buying a vehicle is not necessary. Do not let you talk into that by arguments like “You cannot go to all places; you will miss out on your travel experience!” There is no right or wrong way of traveling, for you there is your way, and that is the only way that matters. You can easily get from one place to another with the bus; you will find people with a ride who are happy to take you along on a day trip in every hostel. There are bundle packages for bus companies which are common among backpackers because they provide a cheap but safe option for traveling. With these buses you reach the most cities and towns of interest and even the most popular sightseeing spots. For short term travelers, which I would consider traveling for up to 3 month, it might be an option to rent a car or van. Of course a valid driver license is mandatory. If you want to rent a car or a luxurious camper van is totally up to you. The van would give you the option of camping in the nature in a more comfortable way than in a tent, but using a small car and a tent would save you money for other activities. Another common way of transportation in New Zealand is hitchhiking. A lot of backpackers and locals are more than happy to give you a ride and usually it just takes a couple of minutes to get picked up if you are not in the middle of nowhere. It is also not likely to catch a ride if you are trying to hitchhike with a large group, keep in mind most people are not driving a school bus or a clowns car. So far I just had good experiences myself and heard of no problems so far. The image of the serial killer that is picking up backpackers to lock them away in his basement belongs into the realm of the myths.
One other option would be to do relocation service for rental companies. That basically means that you pick up a rental car from one place and got a few days and some money for petrol to get it to the brand of the company in another city. You have to keep to the schedule and your destination is decided for you too, but you get to use a car or van for free and even get some of the petrol covered. If that sounds like a good deal to you just check out this website: http://www.rentalcarrelocation.co.nz/